Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why continue to deny it: Sanders represents perhaps the last, best chance for working people in this country

While Hillary Clinton continues to say a great deal of nothing—but at least in a “commanding” tone—during the NCAA basketball tournament radio telecasts a campaign ad by Bernie Sanders continues to point out what everyone knows is the truth, but they don’t feel that anyone can “do anything” about it. But Sanders continues to soldier on, even if it increasingly seems that he is shouting in a wilderness of indifference. The radio spot noted that unregulated and out-of-control financial bank fraud led to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is remarkable how many people still have this “Pollyanna” memory of the first Clinton presidency, not just its seemingly bi-monthly scandals, but its right-wing reactionary approach to domestic policy, once it appeased the white gender and LGBT advocates. Sure, the crime and welfare “reform” acts primarily had negative impacts on minorities, but the revocation of the Glass-Steagall banking reform act—passed during the height of the Depression to guard against the same things that happened in 2007-2008 that occurred back then—effected everyone, except, it seems, the big banks. While the “too big to fail” banks received billions in bailout money, working people didn’t receive a cent for the pain and suffering caused them by banking malfeasance. 

Sanders went on about how the income gap was allowed to expand out-of-control, and it was time corporate and banking America give something back, like free higher education, health care for all, and raising worker pay. Sanders insists that this can be done by making corporate America pay their “fair share” of taxes. This isn’t “pie-in-the-sky” fantasia that most people assume. When FDR signed the 91 percent marginal tax rate, this was a tax on income over a certain level that was regarded as superfluous and greedy, while millions of people remained unemployed or underpaid. We need to go back to that again. If compensation over an outrageous level is taxed too heavily to be of any use to a corporate executive or financial gangster, then that “overage” would more likely be used to create jobs or increase wages. 

Sanders' ideas might be socialist pie-in-the-sky and “hating” America to right-wing extremists in this country, but why should that be a “surprise”? Consider this: I read somewhere that right-wing radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh is paid $40 million a year, basically an extremely well-paid spokesperson for corporate America, which contributes to his kitty. There are plenty of unemployed and underpaid people in this country; if $50,000 qualifies as a middle class wage, then all that money corporations pay Limbaugh could be converted to creating 800 jobs.

How does converting the outrageous income of one fat blowhard into 800 middle class jobs improve the economy and job growth? If people buy a new refrigerator every 20 years, then that is 40 new refrigerators every year; Limbaugh, given the evidence of his girth, might buy one a year. If people replace their cars every 10 years, then these 800 people would buy 80 new cars per year; even if Limbaugh buys one new car a year, that still very much pales in comparison. Considering the tens of millions that corporate executives pay themselves individually, this scenario is played out many thousands of times in this country. The question of who actually contributes more to the economy—working people or over-paid CEOs—should be obvious.

The same goes for health care. A single payer system obviously takes out the profit motive, and other factors that inflate cost—like uncompetitive drug prices, lack of regulation that discourages unnecessary procedures, making patients just pay not for use of equipment but for their purchase price, and dispenses with arbitrarily high costs for “specialized” or "emergency" room service; we should go back to a system where health care providers became involved less for financial gain and social ‘status,” but because of a genuine desire to help people. What this would likely entail is a gradual phasing out of the private health care system, in which current insurers may or may agree to participate in a “nationalized” system. 

However, I don’t agree with everything that Sanders has made the focus of his campaign, but these are differences of experience, and quite opposed to the absolute denial of Hillary Clinton’s personal and ethical faults by her supporters. I disagree not so much with Sanders call for disbanding NAFTA, but because it is small potatoes compared to the Grand Canyon-wide gap in the US trade deficit with Pacific Rim countries, especially with China. Virtually everything on store shelves from electronics to apparel to even the most innocuous trinkets are “Made in China.” Sanders may have a “point” about NAFTA, although he might mention that the trade act has hurt small Mexican farmers with its de facto tariff on Mexican farm goods to make US farm goods “competitive,” which has forced many Mexican farmers to the cities where alleged manufacturing jobs are there for them. When they don’t find them, where are they going to go? All Sanders’ focus on NAFTA is doing is playing on anti-Hispanic prejudice instead of focusing on where the real problem lies; it is like bullying, the most vulnerable while running away from bigger guy on the playground.

Meanwhile, immigration reform is being held up because of willful ignorance by a core of racist voters inspires “fear” in lawmakers and their re-elections. Although many of Sanders’ supporter call themselves “Democrats,” there is no doubt that his ideas about living wages and jobs are seen as a “justification” for a creeping nativism against all immigrants, despite the fact that this is a nation of immigrants. But nobody really has any idea what the “problem” is; ignorance is not “bliss,” but a way to “simplify” what people don’t understand save in the most vague terms. It would make sense to conduct a nation-wide questionnaire/survey at targeted areas free of law enforcement interference and ICE threat to discover find what exactly are the facts about what these “illegal immigrants” are or are not doing, why they are here, whether they are working and in what occupations, if they pay taxes, to what extent they use public services, etc. So far all anyone has to work on is guesses, paranoia and throw-them-all-out prejudice. Most of these people have integrated into the economy, so it makes sense to know to what extent that they fill a “niche” in a certain occupations that employers have difficulty filling with “natives,” so that real immigration reform can take place.

To oppose this, all Hillary Clinton offers is nothing more than the status quo, as she states “commandingly” over and over again ad nauseam, playing it “safe” by not offering a single specific policy initiative, merely suggesting that she is supports Barack Obama’s non-policies (outside of health care) for so long as his Justice Department does not move to indict her on charges stemming from the email scandal, and long of enough so that she doesn’t have to “play” to minority voters in states where it is essential for her; to Clinton, Southern blacks whose votes that had a massively disproportionate impact on primaries, are now of no use to her in the “big picture,” since she won’t win those states in November. Now she can “concentrate” on conservative white voters, which is her real métier—not the feminists who use her, and who she uses. 

Sanders, on the other hand, has at least voiced strong support for a complete sea-change in public and economic policy in favor of working people. Even if people have their “doubts,” it is far, far more preferable to have someone at least fight for these changes, rather than have someone who only “promises” to maintain the same unfair and reprehensible status quo merely for the sake of a title. Sanders has lived and breathed “change” his entire life; Clinton has only sought personal power and riches at any cost.

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